Whole Enterprise Localization

Working in a Silo:

One of the most difficult challenges of localization is working with a bunch of siloed teams. Many times this happens by accident. A company slowly develops localization needs and solutions across product or engineering teams and soon a company has hundreds of ways of doing localization that can’t be easily centralized.

Stakeholders often have a good reason to isolate their work from the rest of the company and after a few years of working in silos centralization isn’t easy.  So how do you leverage work in silos across a company and how do you provide whole company visibility of this siloed work?  Unfortunately there is not a one size fits all solution.  But with a little effort and a holistic view of the work there is a solution.

Gaining visibility and supporting your exponentially growing content

Producing data that is useful to localization teams and senior management is essential to support the needs of localization teams and the investment in localization tools. But there is also a need to create a plan for the expansion and maintenance of the new content and processes that localization will necessitate. A future plan has to start with an evaluation of the current processes and goals for your new end state.

The problem can be broken down into 6 categories: Production, Back office,Tools, data, and  metrics

Production: The actual work of localization needs to be well defined. This will require a company to evaluate all their current needs for localized content and potential new uses so all systems can be future-proofed. There should also be a review of the effort and staffing requirements to create, maintain, and evaluate the new content.  These may be localization experts, editors, or merchandisers.

Back office: Payment processes, fund reallocation, IP holdings, worker classification, tax, legal, finance, and other elements need to be well-thought out and planned. Though these are peripheral to the actual production work, these systems are crucial to support whole enterprise localization. Anticipate a large effort to augment enterprise mechanisms to localization since the global nature and dependence on 1099 and W-8 BEN workers is a stumbling block for most organizations.  Also think about how this will be supported and who will own this. It makes a lot of sense to centralize these functions if you can build trust and gain buy-in from multiple teams.

Tools: There are 2 sets of tools to examine and evaluate. 1. The tools used for the production of localized content. 2. The tools that disseminate, and ingest the source/localized content.  How many developers, systems engineers, and test engineers will be required to create and maintain or support these tools internally?

Development languages are one of the tools you should evaluate. Is your company dependent on C++, C#, Objective C, Java, Javascript, or some other language?  Each programming language will present new challenges for localization and internationalization and these should be understood to streamline processes.

Content, Data and data formats: This includes the ingestion and required deliverable formats need to be considered in whole enterprise localization processes as well as the tools used to store the content. If your development teams decide to change the data formats can your localization tools support it or adapt to the new needs?  I include data in the Venn Diagram rather than content not to denigrate the importance of content (which I believe is essential), but to ensure that there is an analysis of the form as well  as the content. Without understanding both it is difficult to design an effective strategy.

Metrics: Each of the above categories will create essential data for understanding your enterprises localization operations and needs. For the creation of content: Cost, time, and quality are essential to production. The enterprise will want want to consider cost/benefit and the tax and finance teams will want allocation for revenue and costs. What will your product and development teams need to make the case for localized products and I18n best practices?

Community: You need to create and support a community of localization practitioners if youwant consistent and sustainable long-term localization at your company.

These 6 areas are a starting point for designing a whole enterprise design for localization. But each industry and company will present a unique list of challenges and new legislation will continue to complicate whole enterprise localization design.  For example GDPR will change the requirements of many tools and systems. And an analysis for any company that leverages localization tooling that captures EU citizen data should add a review of the GDPR.

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